“Ezra” series: (post #6)
Some of the heads of the fathers’ houses, when they came to the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God, to erect it in its place: According to their ability, they gave to the treasury for the work sixty-one thousand gold drachmas, five thousand minas of silver, and one hundred priestly garments. (Ezra 2:68-69, N.K.J.V.)
Leaders should lead by example. Leadership that doesn’t do so will have trouble finding followship. Fortunately for the Jews who left Babylon and returned to Judah to build a new temple, some of the heads of their families led by example in the way they gave financially to support the building program.
In post #2 from this series, we learned how the Babylonian neighbors of the departing Jews had gifted them with articles of silver and gold, goods, livestock, precious things, and other voluntary offerings. Cyrus the Great, the leader of the Medo-Persian empire that had deposed Babylon as the dominant world power, even joined in with the gifting by returning to those Jews 5,400 items that had once been housed in the temple in Jerusalem. When the Babylonians had destroyed that temple decades earlier, they had removed those items and carried them back to Babylon.
Once the returning Jews got back to Judah, though, it became time for the Jews themselves to fund the rebuilding of the temple. That’s when some of the heads of the Jewish families really stepped up to the plate. After arriving in Jerusalem at the end of the four-month journey, they stood at the ruins of what had once been their temple and gave their offerings. Each family head gave willingly as much as he could according to his wealth. The sum of their gifts totaled up to 61,000 gold coins, 6,250 pounds of silver, and 100 robes for the new priesthood that would be established to work at the temple.
This part of the story reminds us what the New Testament teaches about how God’s people are to fund His work. Consider the following passages (with me emphasizing certain parts of the passages):
1 Corinthians 16:1-2: Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. (N.I.V.)
2 Corinthians 9:6-8: Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. (N.L.T.)
2 Corinthians 8:11-14: Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal. (N.L.T.)
1 Timothy 6:17-19: Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life. (N.L.T.)
In all of these passages, we can hear what God is saying. When it comes to funding His work, He doesn’t want to bleed His people dry, but He does want us to give voluntarily, cheerfully, and generously according to our income. That goes for temple building, helping the poor, supporting missionaries, funding the work of the local church, and anything else that might be deemed “God’s work.” It’s just a shame that so many Christians blatantly ignore this important aspect of service. If those heads of the Jewish families who built that second temple in Jerusalem had given like many Christians do today, there would never have been a second temple.
In closing, let me be clear: God’s work doesn’t get done on pocket change. I trust that you will keep this in mind, Christian, when it comes your time to give. Remember that Jesus wants you to submit every part of your life to His Lordship, and that includes your money. He has work that He wants you to generously support, and anytime He allows you to have more money, there are two questions that you should ask Him. The first one is: “Lord, how much extra do you want me to give from this new excess?” And the second one is: “Where do you want me to give it?”